It's hard to say which is weirder in a new TV commercial: the sight of lingerie-clad, angel-winged model Adriana Lima walking through a Venetian palace to the stark sound of Bob Dylan's 1997 song "Love Sick," or the actual presence of Dylan himself, lurking in the shadows and casting enigmatic glances.
That's the attention-getting scenario of the new Victoria's Secret ad that began airing on television this week. Though Dylan licensed the song to the lingerie company for a 2003 commercial, his appearance in the ad is an unusual step for the pop icon.
Dylan could not be reached for comment, but his label, Columbia Records, issued a statement saying: "We think this is a great way to reach people with Bob's music. We're thrilled that he said yes when we asked him to be in it."
"He took direction very well, wanted to know what we wanted to achieve," said Ed Razek, president and chief marketing officer of Victoria's Secret's parent company Limited Brands.
"We were really trying to achieve the ultimate romantic aspiration -- it's Venice, it's Dylan, it's an incredible palazzo, it's an angel.... His voice just works against those kinds of images. Also, you've got 40-plus years of gravitas there."
The commercial will air for three weeks, and may return in the fall, Razek said. A compilation CD of Dylan love songs is also on sale in Victoria's Secret stores for a limited time.
The issue of rock legends lending their music to commercials has been the subject of debate for years, escalating when the Beatles' "Revolution" was used in a Nike ad more than a decade ago. Dylan himself stirred some controversy when he licensed "The Times They Are A-Changin' " to the Bank of Montreal in 1997.
But the uproar seems to have died down in recent years.
Joe Levy, deputy managing editor at Rolling Stone magazine, said, "Maybe people who came of age with him at a time when rock 'n' roll and advertising had a much more adversarial relationship, maybe for them it's worth getting upset over. For almost anyone who grew up afterward, it's a commonplace."
"I think if you can sell 'The Times They Are A-Changin' ' to a bank, the best we can say about this one is it shows he still has a sense of humor," said Dave Marsh, a veteran rock critic and author.
"Sometimes you lose, and on the issue of whether important rock records should become advertising, we lost."